Lent 2 B: Take Up Your Cross

Mark 8:31-38 Dear Partner in Preaching, Some will see in this Sunday’s passage a call to be patient and long-suffering in the just cause, and in this sense to take up one’s cross, and I’m sympathetic to that counsel. Others will hear the promise that all things, even something as awful as the cross, work together, in the words of the Apostle, “for the good of the one who believes” (Rom. 8:28) and so invite us to take up our cross trusting that God is in control, and I’ve seen that counsel provide comfort during difficult times. Still others will ask what things we’ve used to try to save our lives rather than giving ourselves...

Lent 1 B: Lenten Courage

Mark 1:9-15 Dear Partner in Preaching, There is a whole lot going on in this Sunday’s Gospel reading from Mark. That may be easy to miss, because we’ve touched on various parts of Mark’s first chapters several times already in Advent and Epiphany. But where Matthew and Luke, by contrast, give distinct and rich descriptions of Jesus’ baptism, his temptation, and the beginning of his ministry, Mark compresses all these events into just a few short verses. And while we may simply assume this is Mark’s Dragnet-like style – “Just the facts, Ma’am, just the facts.” – I think there may be more at work. Perhaps, that is, baptism,...

Transfiguration B: Back Down the Mountain

Mark 9:2-9 Dear Partner in Preaching, Of late, I’ve been thinking about the creeds. Actually more than just thinking; in fact, of late I have been somewhat preoccupied with the creeds. Don’t worry, I know why. It’s because I am teaching confirmation and we are exploring the creed and what it means today. Which is of course the problem, because sometimes it’s hard to make sense of the creeds, and that’s particularly true of the Nicene Creed. Fourth-century language and philosophy applied to making sense to one of the central mysteries of the Christian faith: how can Jesus be both divine and human, two natures in one person, let...

Epiphany 5 B: The Model Disciple

Mark 1:29-39 Isaiah 40:21-31 Dear Partner in Preaching, Most of the time, I tend to focus on one passage when I preach because I enjoy exploring a passage on its own in greater depth rather than worry about connecting two or three passages and risk treating them more superficially. This isn’t a “right or wrong” kind of thing, of course, just my own preference. Most of the time. But not this week. Because the first reading from Isaiah and the Gospel passage from Mark work together to help me make sense of a question I’ve been mulling over of late: how do we mark God’s activity in our lives? The passage from Isaiah offers something...

Epiphany 4 B – Against the Robbers

Mark 1:21-28 Dear Partner in Preaching, How long has it been since you’ve told your folks that God stands steadfastly against all those forces that are keeping them down? That God is opposed to anything and everything that robs them of abundant life? That God is prepared to do battle with those who seek to rob them of lives of joy, meaning, and purpose? I ask this question because I think that’s the promise latent in this week’s reading. Notice that the very first thing Jesus does in Mark’s Gospel is cast out an unclean spirit. We don’t always know exactly how to process “unclean spirit” in modern terms (and certainly want to...

Epiphany 3 B: Fullness Where We Least Expect It

Mark 1:14-20 Dear Partner in Preaching, I don’t know about you, but I suspect it didn’t look like God’s kingdom had come near to any of the persons Jesus first called to be disciples. I mean, they still had to work, long hard hours to scrape out a living as fishermen. Whatever challenges they had at home were still there. Whatever unfulfilled dreams they entertained were no closer to being realized. Moreover, Rome was still in power. They were still living in an occupied nation. Herod was the brutal puppet leader of their region and Pontius Pilate still governed Judea with an iron fist from Jerusalem. No, I doubt that it looked very...